Zeb Noland named South Carolina starting QB

Zeb Noland was a graduate assistant coach just weeks ago. Now, the former NDSU QB will start for South Carolina in their season opener.

South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer announced Tuesday that former North Dakota State QB turned assistant coach Zeb Noland would be the starter under center for Saturday’s season opener against Eastern Illinois.

After losing Luke Doty to an ankle injury, South Carolina’s quarterback situation has been one of the murkiest in college football ahead of Week 1. Did it get any less troubling with Tuesday’s announcement?

Zeb Noland: the SEC’s newest starting quarterback

Unless you’re an avid follower of the Gamecocks’ quarterback situation, you could be forgiven for asking who on earth Noland is. Just weeks ago, the former Iowa State and NDSU quarterback was a graduate assistant for the South Carolina football team, having transferred from the Bison following the FCS spring season.

However, with Doty’s injury and a lack of depth at the position, Noland was added to the Gamecocks’ football roster. Now, he gets the opportunity to start in the season opener.

The new QB1 in South Carolina is no stranger to the Power Five. A three-star prospect out of Oconee County High School, he was recruited by Iowa State. Noland spent three years with the Cyclones before transferring to North Dakota State for the 2019 season.

He completed 70 of his 110 passes for 722 yards and 4 touchdowns during his Iowa State career. That included a valiant 360-yard and 2-touchdown performance in a 2018 defeat to Oklahoma. 

A less than stellar FCS career

Noland backed up Trey Lance during the Bison’s FCS title run in 2019. Once Lance declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, he took over starting duties for the spring season. Unfortunately, Noland presided over the worst Bison record in recent times. NDSU went 7-3 in the spring, falling to Sam Houston State in the FCS Quarterfinal.

Noland completed only 51 of 100 passing attempts in his only season as a starter, tallying just 721 yards. Furthermore, he threw 6 interceptions compared to just 5 touchdowns. Noland was a noticeable downgrade for a team accustomed to quarterback excellence with Lance, Easton Stick, and Carson Wentz.

South Carolina’s quarterback situation is a serious head-scratcher

Now, Noland is a starter for an SEC team in their season opener. On the one hand, you could argue that he’s the only quarterback on South Carolina’s roster with FBS experience outside of Doty. Yet, starting a QB whose college football playing career was over just weeks ago is cause for concern for a program hoping to bounce back under Beamer.

Not that the quarterback situation has been a strength of the team even before the loss of Doty. In his preseason college football quarterback rankings, Pro Football Network’s Cam Mellor ranked Doty as the 127th-best QB in the nation. Doty ended 2020 with a 60.6% completion rate while averaging 5.8 yards per completion. He also threw an interception in each of his three outings.

Despite this, there was no doubting he was the QB1 for this team. South Carolina entered training camp with Doty ahead of Jason Brown, Colten Gauthier, and Connor Jordan.

Is Noland the best of an inexperienced bunch?

Brown is a former FCS quarterback for St. Francis. The 6’3″ passer set an NEC record for passing yards and touchdowns in 2019. He also earned second-team All-Conference honors that season. The highly-rated passer completed 61.6% of his career passes at the FCS level.

Gauthier is a three-star recruit who chose South Carolina from over 20 offers, including multiple Power Five programs. The true freshman has impressed, with a mature demeanor belying his long-haired, guitar-touting, rock-star image.

They were considered good enough to back up Doty before his injury. An opener against an FCS opponent would seem an excellent opportunity to test them in live action. Still, Beamer clearly believes Noland can get the job done. Just last week, he told reporters:

“I told Zeb, and I told the quarterbacks, that he’s going to come in here, and he’s going to compete like everyone else. And if he deserves the opportunity to play and can help us win football games, he will. And if he can’t, he won’t.”

We’ll find out on Saturday whether Noland can actually help the Gamecocks win football games.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles